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May 18, 2007

Meet Moira

It was a treat for me, as the long-time Harmony Sweepstakes producer, to finally have a female group win the National Championship. Female trio Pastiche won back in 1987 and although women's group have placed and done well over the years, I have been looking forward to a win by the ladies. And what winners indeed are Moirey Smiley and VOCO who was the unanimous choice of the judges.

A great reason for the success of the group is due to the many talents of Moira whose songwriting, arranging and vocal skills are readily apparent upon hearing the group. Originally from Vermont, Moira went to the acclaimed IU School of Music and graduated with an Early Music Vocal Performance degree. In 1994 she founded the a cappella female group Vida who were soon signed by the prestigious IMGArtists Agency. Vida toured extensively in Europe and the US culminating with performances at the Lincoln Center.

In the summer of 2004 Moira founded VOCO who performs in a few different combinations. Originally performing as a mixed quintet with light accompaniment the group has of late been performing as a female quartet and include a wide selection of a cappella pieces in their repertoire. VOCO digs deep into the spectrum of the human voice as they sing post-folk, improvisation-built songs, ballads, vocal symphonies and dancesongs.

The constant thread in all of Moira’s work is performance that combines emotional, virtuosic, communicative singing with old songs, joyous improvisation and physical wit. Her mother-tongue is folksong – especially old songs of Appalachia, Ireland and Eastern Europe. She has won many awards for her study of voice in culture – always entwined with her composing and improvisation work – this year, receiving The Durfee and American Composers Forum grants for her large-scale arranging project of Bela Bartok’s “Mikrokosmos”.

Moira also teaches vocal technique, traditional singing styles and improvisation at U.S. and European universities and composing for vocal ensembles from here to Tanzania – her song “Stand in that River” is sung worldwide by thousands of choral ensembles and singers of all stripes.

The Harmony Sweepstakes has always rewarded originality and VOCO certainly displays a great deal of creativity and fresh thinking having been dubbed "a secret union of Bella Bartok and Emmylou Harris". The group describes themselves as a "fiery roots vocal band" which perfectly captures their sound and they bring to the Harmony Sweepstakes yet another impressive interpretation of the wonderful and varied sounds of the unaccompanied human voice.

Posted by acapnews at May 18, 2007 10:33 PM